Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Slide Garden: 6/24/22

A leisurely tour of the Downes Brook Slide on the NW flank of Mt. Passaconaway, with naturalist Dan Newton and his slide-climbing companion, Friday. We took plenty of time to examine the varied plant life thriving on and alongside the slide.

The water was low in Downes Brook, making the four crossings on the Downes Brook Trail fairly easy. Still, many of the rocks were slippery from the previous night's rain and careful foot placement was needed.

Ledge step at the base of the open slabs on the slide.

Dan and Friday ascend the expansive, low-angle (17 to 21 degrees, as measured by my clinometer) lower slabs of the slide, composed of Conway Granite.

We took a long break here to savor the scene. Dan relaxes in his portable camp chair.

Friday found his own spot in a nearby patch of woods.

View of Potash Mountain from our break spot. This slide fell around 1892, and 130 years later vegetation has yet to grab a foothold on the open slabs, though it has made inroads along crevices and on residual islands of soil.

Though, remarkably, the slide was virtually bug-free, Dan demonstrated the art of making an insect-deterring "smudge" with a slow-burning fungus known as tinder polypore. This fungus was found on the body of the prehistoric (~3300 B.C.) Iceman, whose mummified remains were discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy.

We spent some time surveying the plant life around the slabs, such as this patch of Rhodora, starting to go to fruit.

In a soil-retaining crevice are a small white pine and a prematurely-turning red maple.

Lance-leaved goldenrod, which will flower later in the summer.

Sedges are not easy to identify, but this may be Eastern rough sedge, which was found on 5 of 22 White Mountain slides surveyed by researcher Edward Flaccus in the late 1950s.

A patch of Sheep Laurel along the edge of the slide.

Dan botanized all along the slide. The variety and patterns of vegetation on the lower slabs prompted him to name this the "Slide Garden."

Heading up, we obtained this view from the top of the lower slabs, with Mt. Eisenhower in the distance.

Looking down the lower slide. Numerous wet, slick slabs necessitated careful attention to footing. Bushwhack detours into the woods (treading carefully to minimize impact on vegetation) avoided several potentially dangerous spots.

Dan captures the scene at a small ledge-step cascade.


A colorful strip of algae.

Dan spotted a significant colony of round-leaved sundew, a tiny carnivorous plant that traps insect prey with the sticky droplets on its leaves. Edward Flaccus recorded this species on 9 of 22 White Mountain slides he surveyed in the late 1950s.

A scenic route up several series of ledge slabs.

The northern spur of Mt. Passaconaway - location of the great north-facing viewpoint accessed by a side path off the Walden Trail - rises 1500 ft. above this spot on the slide.

Bushwhacking around a large steep and wet slab just below "the turn of the slide," a point where the 1892 slide makes a sharp right turn up a steep slope and a more recent slide (possibly 1938) comes down the drainage straight ahead.

We followed the course of the 1892 slide up the steep slope in the woods, bypassing two very steep, wet, massive ledges, in part on a remnant of the long-abandoned Downes Brook Slide Trail. By 1900 this trail had been established along the route of the slide, and was later maintained by the Passaconaway Mountain Club (based in the Albany Intervale) and then the WMNF. Maintenance ended in 1957 due to the slippery ledges, which are especially hazardous when wet - even the low-angle lower slabs. In some sections there is virtually no trace of the old trail; this slide is for experienced slide climbers/bushwhackers only. At the top of the open slide, at ~2800 ft., we edged carefully out for fine views to the north, all the way to Mt. Washington. 

Bringing Potash Mountain and Mt. Carrigain into view.

The massive, mighty Carrigain.

Looking up the higher of the two ledges slabs above the turn of the slide.

Side view of the lower of the two slabs. Too steep and slick to climb.

Slab, cascade and golden pool just below the turn of the slide.

Another sedge by the golden pool, possibly white-edged sedge, which was found on 12 of 22 White Mountain slides by Edward Flaccus.

Looking back up at Passaconaway's northern spur.

Late afternoon sun on the ledges.

Happy friends.

Parting shot.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022



I enjoyed a fine sunny day for a climb of old favorite Mount Passaconaway, "monarch of the Sandwich Range," via the northern route from the Kancamagus Highway. This 11-mile trek took in several fine views as well as a bushwhack to a ledge high on the steep cone of the mountain.

This is the quiet approach to Mt. Passaconaway, compared to the Dicey's Mill Trail from Ferncroft on the south.


Beaver pond along Oliverian Brook Trail. On calm days the mosquitoes can be fierce here. This day was nice and breezy.

Into the Wilderness.

The "cathedral forest" along Passaconaway Cutoff. Hiking this route gave me a chance to check things partway into the season on the Cutoff, the adopted trail of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Committee. The trail looked good overall. Made some notes on a few spots for touch-up hobblebush brushing on the next work trip, and removed a couple of blowdowns.


On the Square Ledge Trail, the third of six trails used on this hike.

Artifacts from a high mountain camp of the Conway Lumber Company's Swift River Railroad (1906-1916).



Looking up the Nanamocomuck Slide (1938) from the Square Ledge Trail.


The slabs on this slide are steep.

Looking up at Passaconaway's cone.


Loose gravelly footing makes a full ascent of this slide tricky, but I often scramble up to the first shelf for a break and a view after completing work on the Passaconaway Cutoff.

View north from the slide, near to far: Hedgehog Mountain; Mt. Tremont and Bartlett Haystack; Mt. Washington and Wildcats/Carters.

A ferny spot along the Square Ledge Trail.

Junction at the SE base of Passaconaway's summit cone.


An easier section of the often steep Walden Trail.

Rock steps installed as part of a major reconstruction of the Walden Trail by the Wonalancet Out Door Club in 1997-2001.

Steep scrambling near the top of Walden Trail.

Neat ledge face at the top of this pitch.


From here I launched a bushwhack in search of a ledge on the NE flank of the summit cone.


Slow progress in this stuff.

I found the ledge, and it looked like a great perch, but the joke was on me: it was surrounded by crevices. Being alone, I decided it wasn't worth the risk trying to get down onto the ledge and then back up off it.


Anyway, I had a great view from where I was above the ledge.

Zoom on a beaver pond in the Oliverian Brook valley, which offers an imposing return view up to Mount Passaconaway.

The steep north slope of Passaconaway.


I whacked back up to the Walden Trail and continued up to Passaconaway's fine, sun-drenched south outlook. The Wonalancet Range and the lower reaches of The Bowl are prominent in the foreground, with the waters and hills of the Lakes Region in the distance.


This ledge also offers a broadside view of Mt. Whiteface, with Sandwich Dome peeking over on the right.

I continued up the short climb to the east outlook, which is getting more restricted but still has a good view of Mts. Chocorua and Paugus, the Paugus Pass area, and distant SE horizons. If you look closely you can see the ledge I bushwhacked to, over a gap in the trees near the bottom of the photo, directly under the big gravelly slides on Mt. Paugus.

If skies are clear, I always encourage Passaconaway hikers to make the side trek (0.5 mile round trip with ~200 ft. of climbing on the way back) to the wonderful north outlook.

From this small lofty perch nearly three dozen 4000-footers can be spotted. The vista in this frame extends from the Franconia Range across to the Presidentials.


Zoom on Church Pond down on the Albany Intervale.


Extending the view eastward across to the Moats.


You look down on ledgy Hedgehog Mountain, nearly 1500 ft. below.


Had this spot to myself for more than an hour. It was a hard place to leave.

I paid a quick re-visit to the east outlook, where the late afternoon lighting was fine.

The actual summit, reached by a short side path, is heavily wooded.

The NW outlook at the top of Dicey's Mill Trail is now quite restricted in summer. It's much better with a snow platform in late winter. Hikers who go up and back via Dicey's Mill Trail without looping over the summit on Walden Trail (including the side trip to the north outlook) get only this limited view and miss the three good outlooks.


There is still a clear look at the Franconia Range and Mt. Garfield here.

Looking down the ledge scramble on Dicey's Mill Trail just below the NW outlook. The upper ~0.25 mile of this trail is steep and rough, then the footing vastly improves.

One of many sets of rock steps installed on the upper Dicey's Mill Trail in 2021 by the pro OBP Trailworks crew working with WODC and the WMNF.

The short, mellow East Loop is a convenient link in a loop over Passaconaway's summit.

Took out a small blowdown on the return trip down Passaconaway Cutoff, and made it out before dark.